2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc – Domaine Chante Cigale

Blend: Grenache blanc 20% Roussanne 20 % Bourboulenc 20 % Clairette 20 % Picpoul 20%

Simply stated, I wish for more white Chateauneuf du Pape on the shelves. This is a white wine which possesses complexity and depth normally associated with red wines. If you say you do not like white wines, try one of these.

I suggest starting here with the 2020 Domaine Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. Using an equal amount of all of the appellation’s allowed white varietals (missing only Picardan), the wine’s nose jumps from the glass, exhibiting notes of baked apples, honeysuckle, and sliced citrus fruit. The palette continues with light lemon and orange flavors, complemented with stone fruits and minerality. The mid-palette is strong and the finish is long and refreshing.

After a long work week, this wine made Friday evening a pleasure, as this paired well with shrimp Thai noodles and relaxing music. I soon found myself on a second pour and really savored those deep complex flavors which just kept coming.

At $34.99, this isn’t an inexpensive bottle, but one finds the price well worth it for the delivered pleasure. Blanc wines from this region make up only 7% of total production, so pick it up when you see it. 20,000 bottles comprises the total production of this one, so get it if you find it! Do not be afraid of the recent vintage, it’s drinking great right now.

T-Scale: 93 points. Well worth this price point for this uncommon vino. I found mine at Wine Merchant in Norwood. I’ll be buying more, so get one before I get them all.

Domaine Chante Cigale
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Kathryn Hall 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

We are celebrating our third year of membership in the Hall Wines club and the perquisites increase. We will get an increased discount on club wines during each shipment!

Included in the wines we receive is the Kathyn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, one of my favorite multi-vineyard blends.

Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

According to Hall’s website (linked below), a large part of the blend comes from Hall’s Sacrashe Vineyard in Rutherford. Other sources include grapes from partnering growers throughout Napa. The 2014, unlike the 2015 vintage which blends in 2% Petit Verdot, contains 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The resulting blend is velvety-soft with a lovely expression of red fruit in the middle of the palette. The finish is long and smooth with some tannin on the tongue. This wine will cellar for many years. I recommend holding at least another year, but it is showing very well now!

Check out more wine facts here.

T-Scale rating – 94 Points. This is a proper Napa Cabernet which pleases my palette. This wine is not too much of anything, while also being round, firm, and long in finish. Cellar it for years or drink soon.

Prices are wide ranging. Wine searcher has the 2015 vintage available from prices ranging from $60 – $160! I once saw this wine in Costco for a great price, so be diligent in your search for it. You will not be disappointed.

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Napa Valley, Reds, Uncategorized, United States | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Seaglass Rosé, Monterey County, 2017

If you’re not drinking pink wine, you should be.  I am not referring to that pink stuff commonly found in gas stations, I am referring to the lovely dry pink Rosé wines that are a natural pairing for the warm outdoor days of summer.  Some of my traditional favorites are Rhone-made, but lately I’ve discovered some California and Oregon examples that are worthy of consumption.  This example from Seaglass is a wonderful and inexpensive option.

The wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 15% Pinot Noir, which is unusual, but effective.  The Pinot really shows, lending a bit of tart citrus to the mix.  The Grenache brings the fruity and creamy flavors while the Syrah brings a fuller body.  

I served it cold on the deck with mozzarella and basil pesto.  The warm and humid day quickly provided a condensation on the outside of the glass.  As the wine warmed, more fruit and tart flavors evolved.  This is a great outdoor wine that loves a hot day.


Link to the Winemaker Notes
“Our Rosé was crafted entirely from free-run juice—with no pressed grapes at all—to achieve a soft, light-bodied wine. To preserve the delicate fragrance and crisp acidity of the Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes, we fermented the wine at cold temperatures in stainless steel, with no malolactic fermentation. The result is a fresh, coastal Rosé with lovely aromas and a pale pink hue.A beautiful reflection of Monterey County’s pristine coastal terroir, our Rosé opens with fragrant wild strawberries and dried rose petals on the nose. Flavors of juicy cherry and ripe raspberry are balanced by refreshing acidity and a crisp, clean finish.

This vibrant wine is a diverse menu partner, pairing exceptionally well with prosciutto and melon or crab cakes with spicy aioli.”


Wine Enthusiast review:  90 Points, best buy


T-Scale:  91 points.  Prices range from $7.99 to $11.99.  Costco has it for $7.99, which is an absolute steal for this bottling.  Drink more pink!

Categories: California, Central Coast, Rosé, Variatal | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 St. James Winery Traminette, Winemaker Series – Missouri!

On my recent trip to Middle Missouri, I stopped for a tasting at St. James Winery, right alongside I-44 in St. James, MO.   There is a nice tasting room, a beer garden, and a pub on the grounds.  Inside of the tasting room I was greeted by a friendly staff who were more than willing to pour the regular bottlings.  Ah, but the real gems were poured at a separate location within the tasting room.  These wines, most labelled as “Winemaker Series,” were available with the “Premium Tasting” menu.  Of course, I had to have a go.

Blended Norton, Vignoles, Seyval, Chamborcin, and a lovely sparkling labelled as “Champagne American Brut” (tasty!) were offered.  My favorite, however, is the least expensive wine on the menu, the Winemaker Series Traminette.  Very floral in nose, something like a nice Viognier.  Not sugary, but dry with a slightly sweet feel.  Long and slightly acidic with a spicy finish.  It’s quite interesting, especially at this price point.  If one has an aversion to Middle American wines, this one might change your mind.  In the blind, you might possibly choose this to be an American West Coast white.  I paired it with tuna poke tacos with avocado and it did quite well.

T-Scale rating: 89 points.  $14.99 bottle price.  Quite a good deal.  Possibly available outside of Missouri.  If you see it, please let me know.  You are likely to find the Concord and Cranberry wines from St. James, which are also tasty and fun, and best of all, inexpensive.


“Fantastic floral aromas with intense citrus and honey flavors with a hint of white pepper at the finish. Well balanced with a crisp acidity. Perfect with spicy Asian or Thai.” – St. James Winery

All I could find on the wine from the winemaker.


Categories: Missouri, Traminette, United States, whites | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

2011 Tapiz Malbec Alta Colección

I recently inherited a small collection of red wines, most of which have a few years on them.  They were stored we

Tapiz Malbec Alta

ll in a cool, dark place in an old cellar.  Most of these wines were gifted to the owner who didn’t drink many reds, as white is the preferred house vino.  I opened the Tapiz Malbec, Alta Colección, and served it with grilled pork chops and asparagus.  We were quite impressed!

I don’t consider this an expensive wine, as the retail is between $14 and $18 US.  Most of the Malbec offerings at this level are decent, nothing too exciting.  Perhaps I never gave them enough time!  The nose was promising, like that of an aged Merlot perhaps.  Leathery, dusty, a bit of oaky cherry.  First sip was very soft and full of velvety goodness.  Any of those grippy, grapy, tannins have subsided, leaving a nice black fruity feel.

Better still was with a bit of time in the glass, a bright red fruit appeared.  This stayed for a bit, then gave way to the softer side once again.  This is something I usually experience with more pricy offering.  Quite interesting and rare at this price level.

I will try a current vintage and compare with this one.  If it feels tannic and tight, I will cellar a few for 5 plus years.  It is cellar-worthy and a real deal at this price!

T-Scale rating:  91 points.  Tastes and acts like a much more expensive bottle.

Great scores from many other reviewers.  Other notes here

Categories: Argentina, Malbec, Reds, South America | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Folie à Deux Dry Creek Zinfandel, 2013

Summertime and the living is easy… especially when you find a great inexpensive wine.  Deck time to me usually involves grilling up various meats and veggies, lounging on the deck, and sipping a vino.  One often looks to chilled whites and rosés during the warm temps, but I often look for bold reds.  Zinfandel is a superb outdoor deck wine.

Zinfandel makes me remember the great times in California vineyards we’ve had.  Wineries such as Zin Alley, Ridge, Dry Creek, Turley, and others, create dusty, durable Zins that lust for the outdoors.  I recall walking through the Ridge Estate looking over the 100-year-plus-old field-blended Zin, Alicante Bouschet, and Petite Sirah vines.  It was hot, dusty, and breezy and the vines seem to pick up cues from those environmental factors.

Zinfandel is certainly one of the best values for red wines on the market.  It can be made in several styles, ranging from ripe, almost flabby styles, to cool, higher-altitude versions.  I find those mountainous Zins to be very interesting and quite tasty.

The Folie à Deux Dry Creek Valley for 2013 is an example of the warmer climate Zin.  I’ve recently returned to Zin consumption after a bit of a hiatus due to a concentration on Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and others.  I can recommend several recent bottlings, including this gem!

Start with the price:  $9.59 (Costco).  I don’t usually expect too much at this price level, but lately, I’ve discovered several that would make outstanding daily drinkers.  Move to the nose and you will discover a familiar aroma of jammy red fruits, dust, and a bit of cocoa.  Flavor abounds with hints baking spice and plentiful dark fruit.  The finish is long and the palette is soft.

I shall be investing in a few more, perhaps even a case.  If you are looking for a nice daily sipper or a pairing with the grilled meats of summer, this is a great wine to pull from your cellar.


TScale rating:  91 points.  One of the best Zinfandels at this price level.  Easy to find as well, which is always a bonus.

Wine Enthusiast:   89 points (Virginie Boone)

Link: Facts sheet from winemaker

An interesting side-note…. while shopping at Costco, I found a palette or two of this bottle under a mislabeled sign.  The sign was close, but was for the Folie à Deux Zinfandel from Amador County, which I have not tried.  The sultry associate took some offense when I pointed out the error.  I simply inquired if the Dry Creek was the same price as the Amador.  He tore down the sign and stormed off mumbling, “I can’t be expected to keep up on everything… blah blah blah…”  Really?  I just wanted to know the price.  He suggested that I should have someone look it up to find out.  On the way out, he said, “Sir, this is the right sign.”  By now, I wasn’t interested in semantics, but pointed out that Dry Creek is located in Sonoma County, not Amador County.  This, as one might imagine, made him fume.  With that, I was off to pop the cork!

Categories: California, Reds, Region, Sonoma County, Variatal, zinfandel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Reviewing some of Wine Enthusiast’s top 100 Best Buys for 2017

The list is out in the latest edition of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s top 100 Best Buys for 2017.  Many of these wines are available locally, and many are on your neighborhood grocer’s shelves.  I chose to look at the grocer’s liquor department for some of these wines.  I found six, and picked up one of my favorites from last year’s list, just to make my own comparison.  These were tasted and reviewed:

  • Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Syrah (#1 on the list) – $9 Costco
  • Woodbridge 2015 Pinot Noir (#2 on the list) – $8
  • Three Thieves 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (#13) – $8Image result for Three Thieves 2014 Cabernet SauvignonImage result for Columbia Crest 2015 Grand Estates Syrah
  • Gnarly Head 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (#57) – $12
  • Estancia 2015 Pinot Noir (Monterey County) (#97) – $14

For good measure, I also tried one former best buy and one current editor’s choice.

  • Cline 2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel (89 points, editor’s choice) – $15
  • Charles Smith 2015 Velvet Devil Merlot (88 points, best buy) – $11


For starters, all of these wines are a fantastic value.  I would buy any of them again and plan to buy my top three on this list often.  I blogged about the Velvet Devil last year and still consider it one of the best values at this price level.

My ranking of the super seven:

  1. Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon – This is no joke at this price.  Buy one.  Buy a case!  Tasting it blind, you would believe this to be a wine valued at $30 or more.  This Cabernet displays notes of sage and wild green spices I often find in hot Napa Valley wines from Silverado Trail or Stag’s Leap districts.  It would not surprise me to learn that these grapes came from that area or somewhere close by.  Medium to full-bodied, this wine is a real steal at $8!  T-Scale 90+.  I plan on buying often.
  2. Estancia Pinot Noir – Medium bodied with lovely floral and fruity nose of rose petals and strawberry.  Some mineral, light cherry, pomegranate, and  strawberry flavors ride to a long finish.  This wine feels like it might cost twice this much.  A great Pinot Noir at a really low price.  This does not happen often.  T-Scale 90+, maybe the best value for a Pinot out there.
  3. Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel – Zinfandel at this price point can be jammy an uninspired, but Cline has bottled up a winner here!  I’ve had this wine in the past, but I don’t recall it ever being this well made.  The 2015 is a balance of barrel spices, vanilla, and big red fruit.  Not jammy, not heavy, and not too alcoholic.  This wine would be a great pair with grilled red meat or pasta with red sauces.  T-Scale 90+, a great, if not the greatest, value for a nice Zin.
  4. Velvet Devil Merlot – Still one of my favorite value bottles, even after this comparison.  Mostly Merlot, but with tiny bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes, this is a very smooth “velvety” little devil.  Very easy going and a pleasure to roll around the tongue.  Not a long finish, but a nice medium bodied middle-of-the-week red wine.  T-Scale 90+, a regular in my stable.
  5. Woodbridge Pinot Noir – I would never look twice at Mondavi’s budget label, but hold up, this is worth a try!  Cheap Pinot Noir tastes cheap, like strawberry Kool-Aid with too much water added.  Not here.  This wine does not taste or smell cheap at all.  Furthermore, it evolved in the glass!  Much to praise here at this price.  It’s light bodied, but full of predictable Pinot flavors of stone, cherry, and maybe some darker berry fruits.  Very pleasant surprise here!  T-Scale 89 points.  A real steal!
  6. Columbia Crest Estate Syrah – Listed at $12 retail, Costco has this gem at $9!  I was expecting a big, mountainous Washington Syrah, but it’s really a medium-bodied smooth sailing nice wine.  Not big, not long, it’s really a mid-palette pleasing red.  From Wine Enthusiast, “The aromas in this wine pop, with notes of dried herb, plum, vanilla and smoked meat. It brings a compelling sense of texture, coating the palate from end to end with exquisitely balanced fruit and savory flavors. It’s a knockout at this price.”  I agree.  It’s a really great wine when you get out your wallet for sure!  T-Scale 88 points.
  7. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel – The nose and palette both reflect a toasty oak barrel.  There are vanilla and cinnamon flavors mixing with big jammy fruits.  It’s a large Lodi Zin, and if that’s what you like, this might be for you.  Certainly better than most other offerings at this price level.  T-Scale 86 points.
Categories: blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Lodi, merlot, Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, syrah shiraz, Uncategorized, Washington, zinfandel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Domaine Albert Mann 2010 Steingrubler Grand Cru Gewurztraminer, Alsace

The occasional semi-sweet wine should be a part of everyone’s vino regimen.  Some of the world’s best big whites come from Alsace.  These wines are often a great value when compared to other wines from Germany, France, and Hungary.

Wines, such as this Domaine Albert Mann Gewurztraminer, balance some sweetness with a tart acidity.  This particular example is a medium-full bodied white that has aged very well indeed.  Bottled straw-colored, it has, with time, turned golden, which to me is a good sign of proper aging.

There is no mistaking the nose of a good Gewurtz.  Very floral nose of roses and lychee fruit makes this a wine I like to sniff for minutes before taking my first sip.

On the tongue, flavors explode with apricot, peach, and some vanilla.  The mid palette is strong and the finish is long, both of these characteristics reminding me of a nice Sauternes or last-harvest Riesling.  Gewurtz, however, is quite unique in flavor.  This wine is a fine example of Alsace Gran Cru big whites.  At this price, anyone can be a fan of this vino!

From Wine Searcher:

Schlossberg is an Alsace Grand Cru vineyard located on the slopes above Kaysersberg and Kientzheim in Alsace, north-eastern France. At 197 acres (80ha), it is the largest of the region’s 51 Grand Crusites and the oldest; it was the first Alsace vineyard to be granted Grand Cru status when classification began in 1975.”

The winemaker suggests pairing with, ” Foie gras with an apricot-saffron chutney. Duck brochette with sesame, spices and honey, grilled salmon with ginger, strong cheese : Munster, Maroilles, Epoisses… ”

TScale rating:  92.  Price $35 for the 2010, when you can find one.  I have a local source who possesses about a case, some of which will be coming home with me.

Categories: Alsace, France | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Archery Summit Looney Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir

We have been sitting on this gem since our 2013 visit to the Willamette Valley and last night was the right night for its opening.  Grilled tuna steaks and a red pepper, white onion, and yellow squash medley (also grilled) begged for the pinot noir.  This occasion also demanded usage of our Riedel Vinum XL glasses for proper nosing and tasting.

Immediate lovely scents of earthy green forest and minerality presented themselves.  Some candied dry apple also showed itself.  Upon tasting, candy

The great Archery Summit Looney Vineyard 2010 along with my clean laundry in the background

apple and blackberries please the palette.  The finish is quite long and lingering.  I find it a very concentrated wine with plenty of fruit, flavor, and nose.  The 2010 growing season produced lower harvests, but the grapes enjoyed a longer hang than normal, thus allowing this vintage to produce fewer bottles with bigger flavors.  Not as nuanced as other vintages, I find the 2010 bottles ready to drink sooner, as is this one.

Wine Spectator 93 Points:  “Dark and ripe, with a tangy streak of minerality that plays its rock and stone elements against the generous blackberry and black currant flavors, finishing with finesse. Drink now through 2020. 550 cases made. –HS

My sisters and brothers on Cellartracker do not agree with my assessment, giving it an 89.8 community score.  Mostly, this is due to the price – $85!! Pricey, but worth it.

T-Scale rating:  93 points.  A very good wine, ready now.  I don’t see it getting any better, go ahead and drink it.

Categories: Pinot Noir, United States, Willamette Valley | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Traveling high and low – d’Arenberg Hermit Crab, Chehalem Ridgecrest VY Pinot Noir

2014 d’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” – Viognier/Marsanne, McLaren Vale – $1320161020_190954

This wine is a great way to enjoy a white wine that is not a Chardonnay.  There are those who are part of the ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay), will take note of this wine.  A very good price point and readily available, this wine is sure to please most of the white wine paring palettes and stand-alone deck drinkers.  Very much a Rhone-style, this one is quite dry, but very flavorful.  Citric, peachy, and full of other worldly fruit flavors such as lychee and star fruit, this wine displays flavors I usually equate to Northern Rhone bottles.   At this price, one might consider getting a case!

Wine Advocate – 90 points.

T-Scale – 91 points!  At $13 (Costco), you really should be buying this wine.


2009 Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir – $43

Admittedly, I bought this one directly from the Chehalem tasting room in Newberg, Oregon.  This was one of three bottles left in the room.  I waited until now to open it and it did not disappoint.  Spicy, earthy, big.  This wine is very much like a genuine Burgundian red.  I would place this in a blind tasting with big Burgundies from the Côte de Nuits and expect it to fool most.  The 2009 vintage seems a bit more full than other vintages, but not overly so.  My only complaint is left two of these bottles behind in the tasting room!

Ridgecrest is one of a few vineyards on Ribbon Ridge owned by Chehalem.  All three of the single vineyard pinot noir wines get blended into the regular offering at Chehalem, but the single vineyard bottlings are the real gems.  All three are quite good, but I find this is the best one.

If you find more of these, regardless of vintage, let me know.  I want more of them.

Cellar Tracker – 90.6,

T-Scale 93 points.  Quite nice at this price.  Many more of the big Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs are bringing a lot more money, but this is a very good value, and better than most of the higher dollar offerings.

Categories: Australia, Oregon, viognier, whites, Willamette Valley | Leave a comment